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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

'The Saints of Santa Ana' Shows Ethnic Identity Isn't Far From God

Early on in The Saints of Santa Ana, author Jonathan Calvillo recounts a playful anecdote from an afterschool program at an apartment complex. Kidworks, a local nonprofit, readied to distribute bread donated by a food bank to residents. Only, a group of children had other plans. They grabbed the bread and started pelting each other with it. Doña Elvia, a resident, stepped in when Calvillo and other Kidworks staffers couldn’t stop the food fight.

“¿Que están haciendo?” asked Doña Elvia from the courtyard. “¿Que no saben que la comida es sagrada?”

The admonishment restored order, but not before one last act of youthful defiance. As a piece of bread soared through the air, a little girl did her best imitation of Doña Elvia, save for subbing “sagrada” with “sangrada.” The children shared a quiet, mischievous laugh; Calvillo later found a revelation.

“As I would discover, both Doña Elvia and the little girl were correct,” he writes in the book. “In her faux pas, the child had extended Doña Elvia’s assertion; in her faux pas she had transubstantiated the bread. So too, the very streets of Santa Ana are sagradas and sangradas.”

Read more on my latest "Off the Page" column with Libromobile:

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